Paging Doogie Howser: 21-Year-Old Prodigy to Graduate from Medical School

What did you do by age 21? Slacker.

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While the rest of us were eating paste and building model volcanoes for elementary school science fairs, Sho Yano was on his way to becoming a doctor. The 21-year-old prodigy began college before he turned 10 and enrolled in University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine at age 12. He will graduate this week with an M.D. as well as a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and cell biology. He is the youngest student to receive an M.D. in the university’s history, according to the Chicago Tribune.

To say that Yano was an early bloomer is a bit of an understatement. He began reading at age 2, writing at age 3 and composing music at age 5. He entered Loyola University in Chicago at age 9 and graduated summa cum laude in three years. And science isn’t Yano’s only talent: he is also a black belt in tae kwon do and accomplished pianist.

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But despite his obvious genius (at age 4 Yano’s IQ  was too high to accurately measure), getting into medical school wasn’t easy. Many institutions automatically rejected him, worried that he wouldn’t be mature enough to handle the course load and that the program would rob Yano of a normal adolescence.

“I never understood that,” Yano told the Tribune. “Why would being allowed to challenge yourself be considered more damaging than being totally bored?”

It seems like the “genius gene” runs in his family. His sister Sayuri, 15, is also a child prodigy. She is currently pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in violin performance at John Hopkins University and is Yano’s closest confidant.

While Yano was teased at college because of his age, students at Prtizker, where he was accepted in 2003, have accepted him as part of their class. Classmates call Yano “sweet” and “humble” and describe him as loving to quote Greek literature.

After graduation, he will spend the next five years doing residency in pediatric neurobiology. Despite all that he has accomplished Yano remains modest.

“I’d love to make a great contribution,” he told the Tribune.  We’ll just have to see where life takes me, but really, I haven’t done anything yet.”

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